Getting a Tan (Back in the Days Before Tans Were Popular)

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, June 30, 1913: I’m getting a liberal covering of tan on my arms. As for my hands they experienced that some time ago.

1913 Hay Field

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (April 1, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Two days ago Grandma wrote that she had to help make hay. They probably were still making hay.  I picture Grandma leading horses, or using a pitchfork to sling hay onto the wagon, with the hot sun beating down on her.

An aside: I’m intrigued by the picture that I found to illustrate this post. Is it my imagination or is there a huge bridge in the background of this 1913 photo? There couldn’t have been many bridges like that a hundred years ago in agricultural areas. Does anyone have any idea where the photo may have been taken?

35 Responses

  1. You are right. What an interesting structure.

  2. Looks like a viaduct bridge in the background.

  3. I know I don’t comment often, but don’t ever believe that I don’t adore your posts. I look forward to them each morning. (I have jury duty coming up in about 2 weeks so I might not be as prompt as usual.

    • Thanks for taking a moment to write the kind note. It’s wonderful to hear that you look forward to reading them each morning. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that jury duty goes well for you.

  4. It definitely appears to be a bridge. (I’m guessing there was no info given in the magazine…?)
    Another mystery!

    • No info. in the magazine. The magazine was published at Waterloo Iowa, Many of the stories in the magazine seem like they have a midwest slant. However, some of the stories quote professors from a variety of places like Cornell (Ithaca NY) and University of Wisconsin.

  5. I guess the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines” is true considering your Grandma’s new tan. The presence of the bridge in the picture is certainly strange. Do you suppose it’s an elevated train like they have in New York? My husband is from the Bronx (which was once farm land).

  6. Could be a train bridge. We just had a 100 year-old one semi collapse with a train on it, perhaps due to the flood of recent days…

  7. I am a few miles from the Kinzua Bridge, which is (was…a tornado took it out a decade ago) a viaduct for transporting coal, same era as your blog. It runs over a gorge with a little creek. The use might be similar, maybe research how many viaducts were built then, and where? The architecture is beautiful and very distinctive of the time, infrastructure similar to the Eiffel Tower.

    • Thanks for the info. about the Kinzua Bridge. Even though I grew up in Pennsylvania, somehow I was unaware of it until I read your comment. The story of the bridge and its collapse are so interesting. I’ve added the Kinzua State Park to the list of places I hope to visit someday.

  8. I wonder about skin cancer back then. What do you think? Was there less of it?

    • I don’t have any idea, but if I had to guess I’d say that there was less skin cancer (at least less melanoma) back then. People a hundred years ago kept so much more of their skin covered–

  9. It definitely looks like some sort of bridge. Recently I’ve been thinking about how many things were “here” and gone before us that we don’t realize. Not sure that makes sense, but I always thought of “advancements” like bridges as progressing in a linear chronology, but now realizing there are many “lost civilizations” in the past. Not sure I’m getting my point across at all . . . .

    • I understand exactly what you are saying. On a day to day, or even a year to year basis, it can be difficult to see that areas are moving forward or declining. But over longer periods of time whole areas change, and sometimes revert back to a more natural state as needs change and people move.

  10. Your grandmother is such a hard worker!!

  11. I also think it looks like a railroad bridge and it may be up high because it is crossing a river. Just a guess.

    • That’s what I kind of think, too. I wonder if the farm in the picture was on the flats or floodplain right next to the river. I picture that there might have been some steep hills back a little ways from the river–and that the bridge went from the top of a hill on one side of the river to the top of the hill on the other side.

  12. Interesting photo. From my research, all hay was put up much as you mentioned, using a pitchfork to place it in a wagon drawn by teams of mules or horses. The primary bridges in Kansas in 1913 were made if limestone that was cut dorm the fields. Such a bridge is the header photo at the top of my blog.

  13. Railroad came to my mind, too.

  14. Hope you find the spot. That’s one long bridge!

    • The length also struck me as being really unusual –but after reading the various comments other readers have made, I realize that there were more really impressive bridges a hundred years ago than what I’d originally thought, so who knows if I’ll ever figure out the spot. :)

  15. That is interesting, I also thought a railroad bridge.

    • Since automobiles were still in their infancy in 1913 (and trains were at their peak), it makes sense that it would be a railroad bridge.

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